Twenty volunteers, staff and board members from CASA of the Highland Lakes joined about 300 children’s advocates from around the state at the Texas Capitol on Wednesday, January 30, 2013, to speak up for children in the foster care system.
Last year, more than 47,000 children were in the care of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services because of evidence of abuse and neglect. The number of children in care is expected to increase to nearly 50,000 by 2015.
Representatives from CASA of the Highland Lakes joined other child advocates from around the state to advocate for funding and reforms of the child welfare system.
“Our volunteers speak up for the best interests of abused and neglected children in our courts,” said Sue Thornton, Executive Director of CASA of the Highland Lakes Area. “We wanted to make sure these children’s voices are also heard at the Capitol.”
“We believed it was necessary to go to Austin and share stories about the children we stand up for who have suffered in ways we don’t want to think about. We want our elected officials to know that there are vulnerable children, more than half who are under the age of 6, who will be directly affected by their decisions,” said Ms. Thornton. “The safety of our children must be a priority for our state.”
“We understand that legislators have difficult choices to make for our state,” said Ms. Thornton. “But we think that at a time when every eight minutes, a child is abused in the state of Texas, we have an obligation to protect our children and see that they are not traumatized further by the system that is supposed to protect them.”
“Legislators should invest in high-impact programs like CASA, which not only are good for children, but are good for taxpayers. CASA has a track record of making sure children get the services they need while in foster care and helping children move through the foster care system and into safe loving homes as quickly as possible,” said Ms. Thornton.
CASA for the Highland Lakes Area met with State Representative Harvey Hilderbran, State Representative Jimmie Don Aycock, State Representative Dr. Marsha Farney, State Representative Jason Isaac, Trevor Spears Legislative Aide to State Representative Ralph Sheffield and Whitney Smith-Nelson Assistant to Senator Troy Fraser, to share concerns about funding for foster children and CASA programs.
CASA for the Highland Lakes Area currently supports 75 volunteers who speak up in court for 190 children in foster care in Burnet, Blanco, Llano, Lampasas and San Saba Counties.
CASA volunteers are specifically trained to advocate for children in foster care. Volunteer advocates get to know the child and speak to everyone involved in the child’s life, including their family members, teachers, doctors, lawyers, social workers and others.
The information advocates gather and their recommendations help the judge overseeing the cases make informed decisions. CASA volunteers commit to a child until the case is closed and the child is in a safe, permanent home.
For more information about CASA, visit www.BecomeACASA.org or www.highlandlakescasa.com or call 325-388-3440. The next training session to become a CASA volunteer will begin in the spring.